I am not a big believer in spending too much time on search engine optimization (SEO) as it can be costly, time-consuming, and distract you from the other, more important, aspects of building your business. A startup’s resources are more effectively used in creating great content on your website that is useful to your customers and will make them want to do business with you – because attracting paying customers, not search bots — are really what you are after in the long run.
But having said that, I recommend that all new businesses implement some basic SEO principles. Do these things and your page is more likely to come up higher in search results when potential customers are searching for businesses like yours.
- Include three types of Meta tags on each page of your website: The title is a short phrase that tells what the page is about; the description is a one or two sentence summary of the page content; keywords are five or so terms that someone would use to search for the content on your page. Since the title and description are what typically appear on the search engine results page, they are worth doing well even without the SEO considerations.
- Use headers and subheads to break text into chunks. Doing so not only helps with readability, but the keywords in the headers and subheads will help the search engine understand (and therefore rank) your content better.
- Use descriptive URLs: directory and file names with relevant words provide both search engines and potential readers with more information than those with more cryptic names. For example, “wickedstart.com/features/start-a-new-business-video” is preferable to “wickedstart.com/1/detail.”
- Label images & videos: give image files short, descriptive names (e.g. “Vangogh-poster.jpg” rather than “picture13456x.jpg”) and use a similar descriptive phrase in the alt tag that accompanies each image (e.g. “Poster of Van Gogh’s Starry Night”). If appropriate to the design of your page, you should also write a short caption on the page below the image (e.g. “High Quality Prints of Van Gogh’s Starry Night”). Identifying your images with these three types of text labels helps the search engines understand your content better, and also allows users of the site to know what’s missing if they can’t see the image.
- Add sitemap files. Your startup’s website should have at least two sitemaps: one that lists each page in a logical order to help customers find what they need and one formatted just for search engines. In addition, if your site fairly image-heavy, add an image sitemap that provides search bots with more information about the graphic and video files on your site.
SEO can be a trial & error process. You may find that you need to play around with different phrases until you find the key words that work the best for your site. And you should have someone else take a look at all of your descriptions to make sure they are clear, concise, and portray your business to its best advantage. It may take a while for each change you make to have any effect, since the search engine bots don’t necessarily scan your site every day. But be patient and stay at it, keeping Thomas Edison’s words in mind: I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.